UN seeks to revive DR Congo peace accord

The United Nations said Wednesday it is reviving a peace accord that African leaders refused to sign last month which would allow a UN intervention brigade to operate in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters he hoped the accord would be signed "in the coming weeks" after new negotiations were held with the countries involved.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon had hoped eight African leaders, from DR Congo and neighboring states, would sign the accord at an African Union summit on January 28. But the ceremony was called off at the last minute after several leaders refused.

The agreement seeks to put new teeth into efforts to end uprisings by groups such as the M23 rebels, who briefly took the key DR Congo city of Goma in November.

Under the deal, the UN would deploy a 2,500-strong 'intervention brigade' in eastern DR Congo. Ladsous said it would have a mandate to stop armed groups gaining new territory, "neutralize" and "disarm" them, unlike traditional peacekeeping forces.

Surveillance drones, attack helicopters and other modern equipment would be brought in to back the brigade, which would be part of the UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO. But the brigade would not have to act with the DR Congo national army as the other peacekeepers do, Ladsous said.

Diplomats say Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique have offered troops for the brigade.

Under the deal, DR Congo would commit to reform its army and security forces and take measures to extend the authority of the weak central government across the vast country.

Other nations would in turn commit to "respect the sovereignty of each other" and increase cooperation to tackle "the root causes of this recurring cycles of violence" in eastern DR Congo.

The UN would also name a special envoy for the Great Lakes region where millions have died in wars, civil wars and militia strife in the past two decades.

The presidents of DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania had been expected to sign the deal last month. It was not immediately known who would sign the new deal.

MONUSCO is the biggest UN-controlled peacekeeping force. It has about 17,000 troops and under its Security Council mandate is allowed to have up to 19,800.